BIG EAST Announces 2008 Volleyball Preseason Awards and Coaches' Poll
PROVIDENCE, R.I. The Louisville Cardinals are the top choice in the 2008 BIG EAST Volleyball Preseason Coaches’ Poll. Eight of the BIG EAST’s 15 head coaches gave Louisville first-place votes, edging out defending conference champion St. John’s, which had four first-place tallies. The coaches were not permitted to vote for their own teams.
Louisville collected 189 points in the voting, placing them one spot above the Red Storm, who ended its championship run last year. The Cardinals advanced to the final game of the 2007 BIG EAST Championship, falling in three sets to St. John’s (30-24, 30-14, 30-26). Louisville received an at-large bid to the NCAA Volleyball Championship, losing in the first round to Middle Tennessee.
All-BIG EAST Preseason Team senior Lecia Brown will lead the way for the top-picked Cardinals. Brown took over the net last year, leading the NCAA in blocks, averaging 2.07 blocks per game. Fellow senior Tatyana Kolesnikova joins Brown as a preseason team selection.
This is the second time Louisville has been pegged as preseason favorites in the conference, with the other coming in 2005, which was the school’s first year competing in the BIG EAST.
Hui Ping Huang, the 2007 BIG EAST Player of the Year, is gone but St. John’s still boasts a powerful roster capable of repeating as BIG EAST Champions. The Red Storm were picked to finish second in the preseason poll and received four first-place votes and 175 points.
St. John’s shared the BIG EAST regular-season championship last year with Louisville as both finished 13-1 in conference play. Rarely giving up a defeat, St. John’s was 33-4 overall, giving them the most wins in the 14-year program history. The Red Storm advanced to the NCAA Championship Regional Semifinals, pushing USC to five sets before elimination. In the final CSTV/AVCA Division I Top 25 poll, St. John’s was 13th, its highest ranking all season.
Wioleta Leszczynska, the 2008 BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year, will head the charge for a repeat championship season. She earned her recognition last year, hammering away 23 service aces for a 0.50 per game average in conference play. All-BIG EAST Preseason Team selection Lena Yee will push the Red Storm as well. The senior led the team with 4.76 digs per game in league play last season.
Cincinnati narrowly trailed the Red Storm by three points in preseason voting, placing them third with two first-place votes. Last season the Bearcats were 9-5 in league games for a third-place tie in the final BIG EAST standings. Cincinnati is led by senior Jessie Nevitt and sophomore Stephanie Niemer, who were both selected to the All-BIG EAST Preseason Team.
Nevitt was fourth in the league in 2007 with 1.38 blocks per game. Niemer made her mark averaging 0.49 service aces per game en route to grabbing BIG EAST Freshman of the Year honors.
Notre Dame received the final first-place vote and was picked fourth in the preseason poll with 163 points. The Irish had been the top pick in the preseason voting the past two seasons. Last year, Notre
Dame posted a 9-5 BIG EAST record, tying them for third, and a 15-13 record overall. The overall mark locked in their 21st consecutive winning season under the direction of head coach Debbie Brown
USF’s Marcela Gurgel, the only unanimous All-BIG EAST Preseason Team selection, will use her powerful serve to lead the league’s fifth-place preseason pick. Gurgel led the BIG EAST and was 10th nationally with a 0.64 service aces per game average a year ago. Last season’s 19-10 campaign, which included an 8-6 league record, marked the school’s most wins since 2002.
Regular season volleyball action will begin on Aug. 29 with Villanova taking on Colorado as the league’s lone competitor of the day. BIG EAST play will start with a 14-game opening weekend Sept. 26-28. The BIG EAST’s 15 volleyball teams play every league school once for a 14-game schedule. The top eight finishers in the BIG EAST standings based on winning percentage advance to the BIG EAST Volleyball Championship in Pittsburgh’s Fitzgerald Field House.
First-round action of the BIG EAST Volleyball Championship will begin on Nov. 21. The event spans three days and is single elimination. ESPNU will televise the championship game on Nov. 23 at 3:00 p.m. ET. The tournament champion will receive the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA’s 28th Annual Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship.
2008 BIG EAST Volleyball Preseason Awards
(-) indicates first-place votes